The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Early Training.

By The Bishop of Carlisle.
Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 481

I suppose I cannot be wrong in saying that the education of children is one of the most lively and most anxious questions of our day. The Church woke up to the importance of the question a good many years ago. So did many religious people outside the Church. But it was regarded in these days very much as a question belonging to the charitable and benevolent, not one with which the State had anything to do. At last, however, the State woke up as well as the Church, and I can remember the feeling there was as to a great step having been taken, when Parliament was persuaded to vote £30,000 for national education. From that small beginning things have grown with gigantic growth. Votes for education now take their place as they ought to do on an equal footing with votes for the army and navy.

In all this, I presume that we shall unanimously agree to find matter for heartfelt joy. To me it seems that the change which has taken place in my own recollection with regard to the manner in which the question of education is regarded marks a distinct advance by England in the path of progressive civilisation. Had it been otherwise -- had we not stirred ourselves to do that which we have done -- I do not see how we could have held our own in the competition of nations. While other nations were advancing along the road of knowledge, it would have been fatal to England to have stood still. This, however, is not a point upon which I wish to lay stress; that which do desire to assert is that the thing has been right in itself; that the interest in national education is a thing to be rejoiced in, without any reference to what other nations have done; that the work which we have taken in hand belongs to our own age as much as railways and electric telegraphs; that we should be unworthy of the grand position which God has given us, if we slighted it, or refused to undertake it with all our heart and soul and strength.

Nevertheless, there is a certain side of this great educational work which it is impossible to contemplate without some feeling of anxiety. The school necessarily takes the place, to some extent, of the home; the schoolmaster or mistress takes the place, to some extent, of father or mother: it is right that this should be so -- it is right that masters and mistresses should realise their parental relation to children; nevertheless, it may be said that man made schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, but that God made parents. The relation of parent to child is an imperishable, indestructible relation; no parent can shift it upon the school; and the condition of a nation in which the schools are of the most modern and improved construction, but in which the influence of home and fathers and mothers is regarded as old fashioned and obsolete, is not a condition to be envied by the thoughtful and the wise.

Hence I have thought that I might with advantage call attention to an ancient example of home teaching and parental influence. The example is that of the young man Timothy, the friend and companion, and perhaps one may say the favourite disciple, of St. Paul. He was evidently one of those gentle and quiet spirits which, though not calculated to make a great public figure in the drama of the world or of the church, are amongst the most admirable influences for good, and in favourable circumstances, amongst the most powerful agencies. He was apparently delicate in constitution, liable to "often infirmities," advised to drink wine rather than water, though possibly having ascetic tendencies which impelled him to drink water rather than wine. A young man in whose steady character and sobriety of life and wisdom and discretion, his great master, St. Paul, had abundant confidence; yet not such overweening confidence as to prevent him from giving some very pregnant and pointed hints, which may be useful to young Christian men and young Christian ministers in all ages of the Church. We may be thankful that there was, in the Apostolic company, a young man such as Timothy seems to have been, and that St. Paul's letters to him have been in God's providence preserved. I do not know how in any other manner we could have got so completely and so closely to the heart of St. Paul. His whole soul seems to come out in sympathy, and love, and admonition, and in the revelation of his own deepest religious feelings towards this young disciple -- a man apparently so different from himself; none of his own fiery enthusiasm, none of his marvelous power of physical endurance, none of his essentially heroic constitution of mind and body; and perhaps on that very account all the more suited to incite the Apostle to pour out, with perfect freedom from restraint, all that he thought and felt in the very depths of his soul. It has sometimes seemed to me, if I may throw in the remark by the way, that internal evidence shows that the Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy must be genuine, because the very conception and the whole construction of them are such as no one could have conceived except upon the basis of reality and truth. No critical question, however, lies in my way just now. It is more to my purpose to observe, and this is the last remark which I have to make upon the relation of St. Paul to Timothy, that the Apostle seems, if I may use the expression, to have fallen in love with him at once. He saw from the first, as I judge from the account given in Acts xvi., that Timothy was one whom he would like to have for a companion, and who would be a valuable preacher of the Gospel. -- "Him would Paul have to go forth with him." These are the first words of St. Luke, after telling us who Timothy was, and accordingly he did go forth and followed him here and there, did his bidding as one whom he owed allegiance, comforted him in his troubles, and became, through the grace of God, one of the brightest examples to the Church of what a Christian young man, a Christian minister, a Christian bishop, ought in all ages of the Church to be.

So much for the personal character and history of Timothy. Now let me make use of the words which connect what I have been saying on this subject with those remarks on education with which I began. "I call to remembrance," writes St. Paul, "the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also." So that the education which fitted Timothy, without further preparation or examination, to become an evangelist and chaplain to St. Paul himself, was due to his mother Eunice. I suppose that Lois had not probably, though she might have had, any direct dealings with Timothy. She would influence her daughter, and Timothy would gain his teaching from her. Anyhow, it was home teaching, and teaching under these special disadvantages, which arose from the fact that the father was a Greek. Such marriages were not altogether uncommon at the time. I should conceive that they would not always be happy, and certainly could not be quite safe. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that in those days of decay of the old Greek religions there might be men who, although not caring themselves to adopt the new faith, might yet perceive some of its social excellences, and might be willing to allow their wives free scope for teaching their children, provided they themselves were permitted to do as they pleased. At all events, in the case of Timothy, the mother's love and wisdom prevailed. The faith in which she had found comfort she instilled into her child. And as we owe Augustine to his mother Monica, so under God we owe Timothy to his mother Eunice; and, perhaps, when the secrets of all hearts are disclosed, it will appear that not only in these splendid historical instances, but in thousands of cases, of which the world knows nothing, men have become good and holy, nay, in many instances, have become heroes in the great fight of God against sin, the flesh, and the devil, in consequence of words which their mothers have spoken to them, advice which their mothers have given, the example which their mothers have set.

It is a matter of common belief that great men have frequently been the sons of remarkable mothers. Whether statistics bear out the notion that maternal heredity is more striking in its exhibition than paternal, or how much scientific observation will concede to the principle of heredity, whether paternal or maternal, I do not know. But the question before us is not one of heredity at all. There is no reason to suppose that Eunice was in any sense a remarkable woman. What she did, so far as we know, was simply to teach her child Timothy the faith which she herself believed, and to set him an example of holy life. She may have been a person of high intellect, or of great originality, or of much strength of purpose; but this is all left blank in the picture, the only record is that she was made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ, and that she was successful in communicating that knowledge to her son Timothy. Of course, like all other mothers, she had the advantage of dealing with her son's mind while it was young and easily capable of impression. This is just the advantage which mothers have over all other teachers; they have (as it were) the child's whole soul in their hands, and if they are wise they will use their opportunity. Eunice might have said, "I will not try to influence my boy's mind till he is capable of judging for himself. His father takes a different view of things from mine. He believes in the Gods of Greece, I believe in Jehovah and in Jesus Christ. Timothy shall take his choice when he comes to years of discretion." Eunice might have said something of this kind, and some wise people of our own day would have applauded her if she had, but a mother's heart will cut its way through a great deal of loose logic; and when that heart feels in its lowest depths that it has found that for which the heart of man craves, a knowledge of the true God, a means of access to the throne of grace, when it has tasted of the love of Christ and the power of the world to come, it will not -- it will feel that it cannot -- refrain from imparting to the child whom God has given, that blessed belief or knowledge -- call it which you please -- with which it is itself so abundantly satisfied. When the child becomes the man, it must and it will, and it ought to think for itself. If the mother has taught falsehood and folly, let the falsehood and folly be repudiated, but the mother cannot refrain from teaching a child to pray, teaching it to bow its head at the name of Jesus Christ, teaching it the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, on the ground that a time will come when maternal teaching (like all other teaching will have to be reviewed in the light of manly intelligence, and when the mature mind will have to pass its its own own verdict, and to form its own judgment.

But I do not wish to enter upon any questions of a doubtful or controversial kind. I shall assume that moral and religious teaching is necessary for children; and I wish to bear my testimony to the very simple truth that fathers and mothers are the persons by whom that teaching should be given, if it is to be given with the best effect. If the question, Shall there or shall there not be religious teaching in our schools? were put up to be decided by universal suffrage, should have little fear as to the result, if only the people clearly point upon which their votes were to be cast. The danger which I am disposed to fear is one of an entirely different, indeed of just the opposite kind. I fear lest parents should be too ready, too willing, to throw the responsibility and duty of religious education upon masters and mistresses, and to forget that they cannot throw off these things from their own shoulders, but must be content to bear them. God has made fathers and mothers responsible; no Act of Parliament can set them free. God has given the children and has said, "Bring them up for Me," and though help may be obtained for the work in a variety of ways, and though every advantage should be used which our age or country supplies, still the prime duty of making the children what they ought to be rests, and ever must rest, with fathers and mothers.

There are just two examples of religious teaching, one of a positive kind, and the other of a negative kind, to which I will refer by way of illustration.

First, the positive example:- There is no positive religious duty greater or higher than that of teaching children to pray. The child should be taught simple suitable prayers, and should be instructed and exhorted to use them regularly. This may be done in our elementary schools. It frequently is done. The point, however, which I wish to press is this, namely: that such lessons concerning prayer as those to which I have referred may be easily neutralised by what the child sees at home. Suppose that father and mother evidently do not care a half-penny about prayer, never praying themselves, never invite their children to pray with them, what is likely to be the fruit of the seed which has been sown at school ? What chance has a godly school against a godless home? What practical use of religious teaching if the father and mothers do their best to make it of none effect?

And these remarks apply mutates mutandis to that portion of society which does not send its children to public elementary schools. The best lesson that a boy can learn at Eton or Harrow or Westminster is to say his prayers. There is no passage in that admirable school-boy's book, "Tom Brown's Schooldays," more striking than that which tells us of the little boy, fresh to school, nervous and timid -- as little boys usually are -- doubting what he should do in a more or less godless dormitory, at last braving contempt and public opinion, and falling down on his knees to say his prayers. Yes, but that little boy brought his prayers with him from home; had he not done so, it may be questioned whether he would ever have picked them up at school; at all events it is an unspeakable gain to a boy to go to school so provided; and certainly the boy's habit of prayer, and so perhaps the character of his whole future life, will depend, not so much upon the schoolmaster, though it be the great master of Rugby himself, as upon what the boy has been taught by his mother, and upon what he sees and hears at home.

But I said that I had two illustrations of religious teaching, one positive and the other negative; we have had the former, now for the latter.

I am told, and that not once, but often, that one of the commonest and worst faults of young people is the use of bad language; loose language, profane language, obscene language. Now, if children are to be taught to use their tongues in prayer, so equally should they be taught not to use their tongues in the evil way to which I now refer.

Here again let me add, that though I have spoken of that which is reported to me as fearfully common in the case of children educated in our elementary schools, I by no means desire to limit my remarks to that class of children and the corresponding class of parents. The due restraint of the tongue is, I apprehend, a difficult duty with young people of all classes. The sins of the tongue may perhaps in one social level be of a coarser type than those which are found in another, but the sin itself in some form is likely to be found in all levels. The verdict pronounced by St. James, when he wrote to the tribes scattered abroad, and described the tongue as "a fire, a world of iniquity, defiling the whole body, setting on fire the whole course of nature, and set on fire of hell," -- and when he added, "The tongue can no man tame; it is a unruly evil, full of deadly poison" -- when St. James passed this verdict upon the human tongue, I apprehend that he spoke a truth applicable to all times, and to all classes of society. And the point which I should like to press is this -- that the tongue will generally be that which it is made by the school. Let everything be done in a school, of whatever grade, to curb this unruly member, but let fathers and mothers bear in mind that whatever attempts are made in school their children will prove that tongues in these days are just what St. James described them as being all over the world in ancient days, and that the battle against the tongue must be fought at home, with all the advantage of precept and example from father and from mother.

That of fathers and mothers is the commonest, the most ordinary relation that exists in the world. The classes and the masses agree in this. In every congregation, in every mob, a large number are parents and all have been children, and yet what a mysterious thing is childhood, and what a solemn thing is the bond which binds mother and child, or father and child, together. Looking upon the institution of the family from the highest and holiest point of view, one would be disposed to think that no parent could fail to do his duty, that no child could fail to honour its father and its mother, and indeed the Ioving bonds which bind families together in a sweet and divine union are not yet decayed. Family life and family love are things of God which all the frosts and east winds of this cold world cannot quite destroy; and the most blessed, the most effectual, the most lasting influence for good is the lesson of holiness, the lesson of devotion, the lesson of duty taught by a mother's lips, and a mother's example, and a mother's love, in the days almost infancy. This is the only way in which the youth of this English nation can be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!

Westminster Abbey,
May 18th, 1890.

Typed by happi, January 2016